In the seventh episode of Crusade, a negotiation lands the crew on Babylon 5 and shenanigans ensue. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade.
I’d like to think that I gave this show an honest chance. I imagine that this review, more than the others, will contain the necessary behind-the-scenes context to help me understand why it unfolded the way it did. (Which isn’t to ignore what many of y’all have already posted!) But after the largely satisfying experience of Babylon 5, I expected at least some of the quality, tone, and joy of that show, but this is… it’s just not that good?
At times, it was, and it should be clear what episodes I enjoyed during Crusade’s brief run. But when the show was not good, it was real, real mediocre, and I found myself confused by many of the production choices, from design to writing. This episode is no exception! We should be overjoyed to be returning to Babylon 5, and yet, there’s practically nothing here to even warrant setting “The Rules of the Game” in this location. It seems the only justification for it is to get Lochley and Gideon together so they can finally have sex, but… that’s not a good enough reason to set things here?
I suppose that even in that, there’s a problem. Crusade could not escape from the shadow that its parent show cast. The fact that it still borrowed so much from the first show is evidence of that. It almost felt like it couldn’t come up with its own unique identity, one separate from Babylon 5, so why not lean heavily into it?
It’s unfortunate because there are glimpses of a unique identity in here. I don’t particularly care for the plot of “The Rules of the Game,” but there’s some fascinating character stuff in this episode, and we needed something like this from Crusade. It’s a pity that this is the last episode I’m watching, though, because it typifies what did and did not work about this show. I tend to like the trope of the mouthy misanthrope or realist who seems to care only about themselves, right up until someone they do care about is hurt, and then they turn into 100% BADASS to defend or support that person. That’s Max to a T in this episode, and I admit to feeling mostly pleased about how this unfolded. The script did not portray Max as out of character; he was still a presumptuous asshole when he was initially helping out his ex-wife! Look, Rolf wasn’t exactly wrong about Max being the type of person who let his intellectualism go to his head. And we see that in how Max interpreted the situation. He wouldn’t pay the full amount his ex-wife owed because there was the principle. You have to think of that! As if his ex-wife never did??? Or apparently didn’t also think of the LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE that this situation caused her?
So, Max felt fully written; his story was intentional, in-character, and managed to reveal that when the people he cares for are hurting, he will turn into a nightmare to take care of them. Rolf Mueller? Not so much. The Lorkans? Maybe even less. Rolf works on one level, of course: he gave Cynthia Allen a predatory loan with an absolutely ridiculous interest rate. But exactly why does he follow her around? Does he have no other business prospects? Is the 100,000 credits that much to him? Is there anything else on his schedule during the day, or has he spent over six months just following this woman around? Like… yes, he’s a villain, but what’s his motivation? Money? Power?
The Lorkans might seem more well-defined, but then a reveal at the end of the episode undoes it all. Their faith is based on the concept of purity, that they were guided by their god to a planet that allowed them access to the previous civilization’s technology. Thus, they do not allow in outsiders out of fear that they might “corrupt” the purity that awarded them this place. It’s an interesting idea, sure. It made for some frustrating negotiations, but then we find out that in order to preserve this purity, two Lorkans are willing to MURDER TWO PEOPLE. Right off the bat, this seemed real hypocritical. How could they claim to be morally pure if they were assassinating two people? And I got that this was supposed to be the point, but I feel like we should have known two things that weren’t told to us until the end:
1) that these two Lorkans were “leaders” in this culture’s religion, not just ambassadors
2) that they had long given up their purity and were selling technology to other races
This did not feel like a clever twist that re-contextualized a story; it felt like the story happened out of order. Shouldn’t we have known just how different their lives were? Who else did they interact with on Babylon 5? Did they have the support of the underworld? What sort of cognitive-dissonance did they have to operate with in order to believe what they did while actively defying it?
I don’t know. I wasn’t really buying it, despite that there’s a cool basis for a story in this.
As for Gideon and Lochley, I liked this plot more for what it showed me of Lochley than Gideon. I’ve known her longer, for one, and that means I found it to be more interesting to see her pursue something that not only made her happy, but had nothing to do with work. Nothing at all! She gets to be happy, she gets to be sexual, and she gets to set boundaries on how this works. It was refreshing!
Still, this was an odd one and, as I said before, deeply emblematic of Crusade as a whole. It did not find its footing, though there were moments where it got close. So, before I say much else, I do want to know more about the behind-the-scenes stuff! COMMENT AWAY. Then we can talk about it more during the Q&A this Friday!
Okay, one more Babylon 5 thing to watch, y’all.
The video for “The Rules of the Game” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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